Smoke Detectors Minnesota

Smoke Detectors are More Important than Ever

Smoke Detectors are More Important than Ever

We're all spending a lot more time now at home than ever before - it's important to make sure you are protected against the unknown and keeping your family, and household safe these days means making sure those smoke detectors are up to date, functional, and up to code.

At Affordable Electric, we know that smoke detectors can only save lives if they are properly maintained and in good working condition. That is why our team of licensed electricians have put together some information on smoke detectors and how to properly maintain smoke detectors in your home.Fire Smoke Detectors in Minnesota

What are Smoke Detectors?

Smoke detectors are an important part of safety in a home, as these fire-protection devices will automatically detect and warn you of the presence of smoke and can save your life in the event of a fire. While it can be easy to forget to check and test smoke alarms on a regular basis, it is important to ensure that they are not only properly maintained but also correctly installed.

Why Use Smoke Detectors?

Having smoke detectors placed in various locations around your home allows for fast and effective detection. The smoke detector siren will warn you, day or night, that there is a potential fire, allowing you to quickly check the nature of the problem and hopefully prevent any damage. When placed in the right location, the smoke detector can also help firefighters quickly locate the fire in the home, allowing them to better focus their efforts.

How do Smoke Detectors Work?

Since smoke rises, smoke detectors are always placed on the roof for ideal detection. There are two common types of smoke detectors to choose from: photoelectric and ionization. Photoelectric sensors use a beam of light within the detector to sense any smoke in the air. The beam will shoot in a straight line when the air is clear. In the presence of smoke, the light will scatter, this is when the alarm will go off. Ionization detectors, on the other hand, use a chamber with a small electrical current. When smoke enters the chamber and the level of ions in the air changes, the electrical current drops and the alarm will sound. Each function is beneficial in different instances and because of this, one is not necessarily better than the other. It is, however, recommended to have one of each of these functions on each floor of your home and in high-risk areas, such as the kitchen or near fireplaces and heating appliances.

Smoke Detector Installation

It is recommended that there are smoke detectors on each floor of your home. If doors to rooms are closed often, it is best to have a detector installed in those rooms; however, smoke alarms should be placed away from rooms that create steam, such as bathrooms, as steam can trigger the smoke detector. Most smoke detectors use double sided tape to stick the device to the ceiling mount. In order to properly install a smoke detector, you will need to drill the mount to your ceiling and then attach the smoke detector to the sticky mount or hardwired mount.

Smoke Detector Maintenance Tips

Residential and Commercial Smoke Detectors or Alarms
Residential and Commercial Smoke Detectors or Alarms

In order to ensure that your smoke detectors are working as they should, it is important to perform regular testing and cleaning. Some of the regular maintenance that should be performed on smoke detectors include:

Testing Your Smoke Detector so just how often should you test your smoke detector?
Each smoke detector should be tested once every month to ensure that the battery is not dead and that the detector is operating properly. To test your smoke detector, hold down the test button until you hear a loud alert tone. If the smoke alarm is in a hard to reach place, try using a broom handle or long pole to
press the button. In some cases, you may need to press the button again to turn the detector off.

Vacuuming Your Smoke Detectors
Smoke detectors should be vacuumed at least once every six months in order to remove any dust buildup and cobwebs. When vacuuming smoke detectors, make sure to use a soft brush attachment around and along each of the vents.

Protecting Your Smoke Detector from Infestations
Using a surface insect spray around each of the smoke detector in your home can be a good way to help prevent insects from nesting inside; however, when spraying around smoke detectors, make sure they are covered to prevent spraying inside of them.

Replacing the Battery in a Smoke Detector
The smoke detectors battery may need to be replaced once a year. In most models, when the batteries are low, the detector will emit a short beeping sound every few minutes. It is important to note that not all smoke detectors have replaceable batteries, so you will need to check the manufacturer’s instructions before replacing the batteries in your smoke detectors.

When Should You Replace Your Smoke Detector?

Since smoke detectors work to constantly monitor the air 24 hours a day, they may begin to malfunction over time from exposure to accumulated dust, insects, airborne contaminants, and corrosion. Most smoke detectors will have an expiration or replace-by date stamped/printed on them; however, if your smoke detector does not have a date on it, it is important to replace it once every 10 years. At the end of 10 years, the smoke detector will have gone through millions of monitoring cycles and the components may have become less reliable.

Smoke detectors are vital to keeping your home and family safe. Affordable Electric can install smoke detectors around your home and position them to give you the best coverage. If you have any questions about smoke detectors or need assistance, please contact Affordable Electric at 612-331-8658 (VOLT).

Home Office Lighting

Tips for Working at Home – Home Office Lighting

Tips for Working at Home - Home Office Lighting

Home office lighting installations have become increasingly popular due to the fact that many people now work from home. If this applies to you, you may find the tips below helpful. Daylight Control This form of light often gets neglected when developing a lighting layout. You may have chosen a room of your house for an office for the very reason that you love the natural light shining through the windows, only to find out that it causes a distracting glare on your computer screen.

Avoid eye fatigue an office that has uniform light all around such as fluorescent parabolic lighting will cause eye fatigue. The eye is continually searching for the brightest spot. Too much uniformity can force your eyes to continually bounce around without you even noticing. This can give you headaches and make you tired at the end of the day.

Create light dimension by using a combination of floor lamps, recessed lighting and maybe even a sconce or two. Light Color Mix up the bulbs. Different bulbs give off different types of light. A halogen lamp gives off a blue-white light while an incandescent lamp appears more yellowish.

You can also purchase a certain type of bulb that uses 20 high brightness LED’s to produce a soft soothing light that continuously changes color. It cycles through white, blue-green, yellow, orange, red, purple, blue, and back to white. The cycle repeats about every 30 seconds. It's a great conversation starter!

We at Affordable Electric would love you help you with your home office lighting. Call Affordable Electric
today at 612-331-VOLT (8658). or contact us online anytime.

What are AFCI Receptacles? Why do they matter in Minnesota?

Get to know AFCI outlets and how Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters deliver safer electrical services to your home

First let's take a quick look at what an AFCI receptacle is and how it's different form the GFCI Outlets that we all know.

The Difference between AFCI outlets and GFCI Outlets

The main difference between AFCI and GFCI outlets are what they are designed to protect against. GFCI style receptacles are outlets designed to prevent electric shock and accidental electrocution. The acronym GFCI stands for Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter. It's purposefully designed to “trip” or toggle off when it detects that the electrical current is flowing through an unintended source, such as liquid, or the human body. Because of the increased risk of electric shock and electrocution that occurs when an electric current comes into contact with liquid, GFCIs are required by code in Minnesota to be installed in rooms, where liquids are present (Kitchen, Restroom...)

The outlet itself looks much like a typical power outlet, except for the addition of two control buttons marked "Test" & "Reset. The reset button is designed to reset or reactivate the outlet after it has been tripped. The test button will test to make sure the GFCI is actually working. If the GFCI outlet is working properly as designed, pressing the test button will cut power to the outlet, and whatever you have plugged into the outlet, will not turn on. The reset button will return normal power supply back to the outlet, after it has been tripped (or after using the test button).

So now that we have looked at GFCI outlets, let’s take a look at AFCIs.

What is an AFCI?

AFCI stands for Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter. While the GFCI is designed to protect against shock and electrocution, AFCI recepticals / outlets are designed to protect against fires caused by rapid escalations of electric power known as "electrical arcs". Electrical arcs can cause overheating and electrical currents to spill out from their intended pathways which can lead to fires. Electrical arcs are one of the main causes of electrical fires, and electrical fires are the main causes of property fires period, so the importance of AFCIs cannot be overstated.

AFCIs may not be always as obvious as GFCIs. While they may have reset and test functions easily accessible through the outlet faceplate, the AFCI device may be under the faceplate. AFCI outlets are required in all rooms that are primary areas of residential dwelling (think all of the places in your home that your family spends time in: bedrooms, dens, living rooms, family rooms, dining rooms..(well let's be honest - how much time do you actually spend in that beautiful formal dining room...but still: Be Safe and add them their as well. The concept of how AFCIs work is similar to how GFCIs work. When the AFCI senses a power arc, it trips the normal supply of power to the outlet to shut off the power in much a similar way that a circuit breaker switches.

Options for AFCI type receptacles are growing. Requirements for residential arc-fault circuit-interrupters (AFCIs) were first mandated in the 1999 National Electrical Code (NEC) and their application has been expanded in every code cycle since. Until recently, installers have had to rely on circuit breaker type AFCI devices to address these requirements. Now it's far more accessible at the outlet or receptacle level to add these Minnesota Code Compliant AFCI outlets.

The actual operation of an AFCI is sometimes misunderstood. Unlike ground-fault circuit-interrupters (GFCI) that provide fatal electrical shock protection to people by detecting leakage current and quickly disconnecting power, AFCIs protect structures from fires and related hazards by detecting arcing and quickly interrupting the power in the circuit. Since the wires are in the wall, it's nice to know that your home and family have an additional layer of protection to mitigate loss, injury, house fires, and failing electrical equipment.

AFCI devices are designed to detect two types of ARC faults: Series Arc Faults and Parallel Arc Faults.

What is a Series Arc Fault:  A series arc occurs when a break in a single conductor or termination causes electricity to jump across the gap and creates an arc.

What is a Parallel Arc Fault: Parallel arcs also occur due to a break, yet electrically jump between line, neutral or ground.

New AFCI outlets addresses the dangers associated with both Series Arc Faults and Parallel Arc Faults. Similar to GFCI devices, AFCI receptacles provide feed-through protection and are able to detect downstream arc-faults, both parallel and series, as well as upstream series arc faults. (protecting the outlet at the outlet with an eye on the overall electrical system.

Effective Jan. 1, 2014, NEC Article 406.4 will require that where a receptacle outlet is supplied by a branch circuit that requires AFCI protection according to 210.12(A), a replacement receptacle at this outlet may be one of the following:

• a listed OBC type AFCI receptacle,
• a receptacle protected by an upstream listed OBC type AFCI receptacle, or
• a receptacle protected by a combination (series/parallel) type AFCI circuit breaker.

Early proposals for the 2014 NEC suggest an expansion of the AFCI branch circuit protection requirements to include the kitchen and laundry areas of a dwelling. In addition, changes will allow AFCI receptacles to be installed with standard nonmetallic-sheathed (NM) type cable to protect the entire branch circuit in any of the areas specified in Article 210.12 (A) with the following caveats:

AFCI receptacles must be installed as the first outlet on the branch circuit, that first AFCI receptacle must be within 70 feet of the overcurrent protection device for 12 gauge conductors and within 50 feet of the 14 gauge conductors,  and AFCI receptacles must be listed for compatibility with specific magnetic circuit breakers commonly found on the market today or used downstream from a new type of breaker called a supplemental arc protection (SAP) breaker that enhances the parallel arc protection close to the overcurrent device.

Complying with these new requirements effectively protects the entire branch circuit from series and parallel arcs and helps to mitigate deadly and costly structure fires.

3 Common Causes of Electrical House Fires and How to Prevent Them

3 Common Causes of Electrical House Fires and How to Prevent Them

Heres a quick overview to explore facets of  the  U.S.  fire  problem as  depicted  through  data collected  in  the  U.S.  Fire Administration’s  National Fire  Incident  Reporting. These can often times be preventable fires hazards. We take a look at 3 Common Causes of Electrical House Fires and How to Prevent Them.

Electricity is a basic part of life in the U.S. It provides the energy for most powered items in a home, from lights to heating systems to televisions. Today it is hard to imagine a home without electricity. It is a part of our homes and our activities that most of us take for granted. Yet, using electricity can have dangerous consequences.

Electrical fires occur frequently throughout the U.S., causing injury, claiming lives, and resulting in large losses of property.1 From 2014 to 2016, an estimated 24,000 residential building electrical fires were reported by U.S. fire departments annually. These fires caused an estimated 310 deaths, 850 injuries and $871 million in property loss. Residential building electrical fires continued to be a part of the residential fire problem and accounted for 6 percent of all residential building fires. The term “electrical fires” is defined as those fires that include electrical distribution, wiring, transformers, meter boxes, power switching gear, outlets, cords, plugs, surge protectors, electric fences, lighting fixtures, and electrical arcing as the source of heat.

  • From 2014 to 2016, an estimated 24,000 residential building electrical fires were
    reported to United States fire departments each year.
  • These fires caused an estimated 310 deaths, 850 injuries and $871 million in property loss.
  • Residential building electrical fires resulted in over twice the dollar loss per fire than residential building nonelectrical fires did.
  • Residential building electrical fires occurred most often in one- and two-family dwellings (83 percent).
  • Residential building electrical fires occurred most often in the winter month of January (12 percent).
  • In only 17 percent of residential building electrical fires, the fire spread was limited to the object where the fire started.
  • Residential building electrical fires most often started in bedrooms (15 percent) and attics or vacant crawl spaces (13 percent).
  • The leading specific items most often first ignited in residential building electrical fires were electrical wire, cable insulation (31 percent) and structural member or framing

3 Common Causes of Electrical House Fires and How to Prevent Them

Electrical Cords

The electrical cords that power appliances and fixtures are often the cause of electrical fires. Never use an electrical appliance with a worn or frayed cord – it can cause sparks, which can lead to fires. Also, extension cords should only be used for short-term use. Never use an extension cord for everyday use; it is a fire hazard.

Space Heaters

Especially in January in Minnesota, there are times you want more heat. Portable heaters are wonderful for warming up a cold room, but you need to be careful when using these appliances. Regardless of the type, you should never leave a space heater on when you are not in the room. Be careful of placing it too close to combustible materials, like curtains, furniture, and clothing.

Outlets and Circuits

Many electrical fires start in areas you cannot see – behind walls and in attics. Older wiring is a main cause of fires, especially in homes over 20 years old. Be aware of issues with your wiring. Do you have breakers that constantly trip or fuse problems? Have you noticed burn marks or heat coming from electrical outlets? These can be signs of bad wiring and unsafe electrical outlets. You should have your wiring inspected and updated if needed. This could prevent a deadly electrical fire that could put your home and family at risk.

 

At Affordable Electric, we are your source for reliable electrical service for your home or business in Minnesota. We offer electrical updates for older homes, and we can add more outlets in your home, to eliminate the need for extension cords. Contact us to schedule an appointment for an electrical safety evaluation. Take steps to prevent electrical fires in your home.

 

The Residential Building Electrical Fire Problem

Although electrical fires declined by 22 percent from 2007 to 2016, electrical malfunction was one of the top four leading causes of residential fires during each of these ten years. It has also been a leading cause of residential fire deaths, injuries and dollar loss during this time frame. Electrical fires involve the flow of electric current or static electricity and are caused by electrical system failures, appliance defects, incorrectly installed wiring, misuse and poor maintenance of electrical appliances, and overloaded circuits and extension cords. These electrical fires can be unique. For example, electrical fires that start in walls can smolder for some time and cause smoke not to be seen immediately and detection to be delayed. By the time smoke is seen and fire is detected, the flames may have already spread behind and within walls. As a result, electrical fires have the potential to spread farther and cause more damage and injuries. In addition, electrical fires can be particularly problematic to extinguish. Since they involve electricity, and water conducts electricity, using water to put out the fire can cause electrocution unless power is reliably disconnected.

Over the last 35 years, homes have been dramatically transformed by electrical devices. Today’s electrical demands can overburden the electrical system in a home, putting it at a higher risk of an electrical fire. This may be particularly true for homes more than 40 years old that have older wiring, electrical systems, and devices. There is also the likelihood that older homes may not comply with more modern electric code requirements, which puts them at an elevated risk of hazardous conditions that could lead to an electrical fire. Eventually, given enough time, any home can be at risk of an electrical fire as wire insulation ages, connections loosen, receptacles and switches come loose or wear out, and oil and dirt cause electrical components to overheat.

Types of Fires

Building fires are divided into two classes of severity in the NFIRS: “confined fires” and “non-confined fires.” Confined building fires are small fire incidents that are limited in extent to specific types of equipment or objects, staying within pots, fireplaces or certain other noncombustible containers. Confined fires rarely result in serious injury or large content loss and are expected to have no significant accompanying property loss due to flame damage. Non-confined fires extend beyond certain types of equipment or objects. They are generally larger fires resulting in more serious injury and larger losses of property and content.

For the purpose of the report, the terms “residential fires,” “electrical fires,” and “nonelectrical fires” are synonymous with “residential building fires,”

Why Do My Fuses Keep Blowing?

Why Do My Fuses Keep Blowing?

In many older homes, fuses are used to protect electrical circuits. The purpose of a fuse is to provide protection in the case of circuit overload and short circuits. If your home was built after the late 60s, it will have circuit breakers, or trip switches, installed that control the flow of electricity. Unlike a system that uses breakers that you can reset, a blown fuse needs replaced.

The Importance of Fuse Sizes

The size of the fuses you use is important because they are designed to protect against circuit overload. The fuse will not allow wires to conduct too much power. For instance, you may use a 15-amp circuit breaker for wiring that is 14-gauge or higher. If you use a higher amperage fuse to replace a blown fuse, it won’t effectively protect the circuit during overload. This can result in wires overheating and starting a fire. 

Causes of Blown Fuses

Having too many devices plugged into a circuit is the most common cause of fuses blowing. This is particularly true of power-hungry devices, such as toasters. Most homeowners assume this is what is causing the problem and work around the issue by limiting plugged-in devices. Another potential cause of fuses blowing is a short circuit. When a hot wire touches either the grounding pathway or a neutral wire, it results in the circuit shorting out. This is what commonly occurs when a mis-wired device is plugged into a circuit. 

If your fuses are frequently blowing, there could be a serious issue with one or more circuits in your home. At Affordable Electric, we are committed to providing our customers with excellence in electrical service repairs. Call our offices today to report a problem, and we will send an experienced electrician to inspect your circuits and carry out any necessary repairs.

The Importance of a Pre-Sale Electrical Inspection of Your Home

The Importance of a Pre-Sale Electrical Inspection of Your Home

Some homeowners and even real estate agents are of the assumption it’s the buyer’s responsibility to have the home they intend to purchase inspected by a reputable home inspector. However, any homeowner who has their property listed for sale should have the home inspected. One part of the home inspection not to be skipped is its electrical system.

Safety Above All

While you may not have noticed any problems with the electricity in your home, there may be an issue you aren’t aware of. Most homeowners aren’t aware of what to look for, such as charred wiring, and don’t have the tools to check if a wire is “hot” or not. A hot wire has a direct current to it. 

There are two reasons why a detailed inspection of your home’s electrical system is important. 1) You may decide not to sell the home at some point, and you need to know the issues that should be fixed. 2) If you sell the home to someone else, you will either need to disclose the wiring issues to them or make repairs before signing paperwork. By law, you have to disclose issues you find via an inspection, but you also want the new homeowners to be safe. 

Upgrading to Modern Standards

During an electrical system inspection of a home you intend to sell, there may be no current problems, but you will likely realize some out-of-date electrical items or wiring. Electrical codes are updated often, based on newer and safer technology. If there are no safety issues with the electric in the home you plan to sell, it may be okay to leave it as is. A newly upgraded electrical system can keep the buyer from having to go through the inconvenience, not to mention the cost. This can raise your asking price considerably.

Understanding the Buyer’s Needs

Safety problems need to be addressed before a sale can go through. However, if the electrical system is okay but outdated, you have some thinking to do. The best option is to talk to the realtors of any prospective buyers and ask them whether they would be willing to pay more if you invested more in a new electrical system for the house. A new electrical system means the new owners can utilize all their new technology, smart-home integrations and more, without having to invest right away in the home.

 

If you’re considering putting your home on the market, whether in six weeks or six months, call Affordable Electric. We can come out and inspect the electrical system in your home to make sure it’s ready for a sale. If it isn’t, we can make necessary repairs and upgrades so it is. We might even make your home better than brand new, so making that decision to put it on the market might be a little harder. Call us today at 612-331-8658!

New GFCI Outlet Requirements Create a Safer Home

Keep Your Family Safe with Updated GFCI Outlets

Ground-fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI) outlets are important to create a safe environment in your home. They protect you from any dangers of utilizing outlets near water supplies such as sinks or outdoor surfaces. GFCI receptacles constantly monitor any electrical circuit that is connected to it.

A ground fault is a conducting connection, both intentional and accidental, between an electric conductor and conducting material that is grounded or may become grounded. Electricity likes to find a path to the ground, but when it does it is unwelcome and may become in contact with a person.

If a GFCI outlet detects even a slight flow of electricity to a grounded item, it immediately shuts off the flow of electricity. This is a safety measure, as the flow of electricity may have found its way through water or a person. This protects people from electrocution. If one’s body starts to receive a shock, the GFCI senses that and cuts all power connected before any injuries occur.

Garages, bathrooms, laundry rooms and kitchens are the main locations in your home that is required to have GFCI outlets. Generally, they replace your regularly installed outlets that supply electricity for appliances or power tools that may become in contact with water. You will usually see these near kitchen and bathroom sinks. These are then used as a replacement for standard circuit breakers and provide GFCI protection to all receptacles in that individual circuit.

Be sure to test each one monthly, to make sure that they are operating properly. To test, simply plug in a lamp, the easiest item to utilize to test. Turn the lamp on, to make sure that the lamp itself is working properly. With the light on, push in the “test” button on your GFCI outlet. This should trip the outlet and turn the light off. If the lamp does not turn off, the circuit may be faulty or installed improperly. Once you have tested the outlet and the lamp has turned off, push in the “reset” button and the lamp should turn back on.

With these new installations and updates, you can be sure that your home is safer for you and your family. If there are any problems, contact us for assistance.